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Why was the Treaty of Versailles so Controversial?

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Introduction

Why was the Treaty of Versailles so Controversial? The Treaty of Versailles is one of the most controversial international agreements. Many observers both politicians and historians have tended to blame the rise of the Nazis, Hitler and the outbreak of World War II on the Versailles peace settlement. For example the historian A.J.P Taylor condemned the Treaty particularly the reparations payments and the creation of Poland. The British economist John Maynard Keynes denounced the treaty claiming that it was too harsh on Germany and was particularly opposed to the consequences of the heavy reparations payments imposed on Germany claiming that they were impossible for Germany to pay. However Germany only had to pay a small figure of the total reparations. The main reasons for the controversy surrounding the Versailles peace agreement are: * The treaty failed to create a new balance of power. In the east a number of small unstable states such as Poland emerged. Britain and France only gained a short term advantage from this and they were too divided by mutual suspicions to implement the Treaty in the post war years * The key weakness in the treaty was that America who had played such an important point in negotiating the Treaty was prevented by the American senate form helping to execute and enforce the Treaty. * However to some extent when viewed from the perspective of 1945, the treaty does not seem to be harsh on Germany as they were still a great power. ...read more.

Middle

Wilson wanted to weaken Germany's military potential for all times, but he had nothing against a democratic Germany becoming a major economic power again and felt strongly about leaving it unified. He feared that an all too weak Germany might inspire France to strive for domination on the European continent. The problem was that the United States was not prepared to assume the new responsibilities it faced as a world power. As the main creditor of the Entente, it had only a short-term interest in European stability and in French and British wealth. The British economist John Maynard Keynes argued that the political and economic prosperity of Europe depended upon a German recovery. He prophesised that the German reparations would keep Germany impoverished and ultimately threaten all of Europe; this is shown to pass with the German invasion of Poland in 1939 creating the conflict of World War II. Keynes was a British economist present at the peace conference in 1919 and would therefore have firsthand knowledge of the negotiations. However the historian Rupert Lowe believes that Keynes was wrong and that helping both Britain and Germany made things worse not better. As already mentioned Keynes opinion on the treaty is more validated due to the first hand experience of the events surrounding the treaty, however due to this Keynes maybe biased towards the opinion that the treaty was harsh on Germany. ...read more.

Conclusion

It was too harsh to reconcile Germany with its former war enemies and to integrate it into a lasting peaceful post-war order, and it was too mild to weaken Germany so as to make it impossible for it to ever again become a great power. The actual peace terms harshly disappointed the Germans, who felt that they radically contradicted the promises Wilson had made to the pre revolutionary German governments. The Germans, felt betrayed by Wilson and the United States. However to some extent when viewed from the perspective of 1945, the treaty does not seem to be harsh on Germany as they were still a great power. Most treaties are meant to be a compromise, where there are always attempts to change parts that one party does not like. It is therefore quite possible that the majority of the territorial clauses of the treaty did represent a genuine compromise between the aims of the allies and Wilson's fourteen points. The treaty failed to create a new balance of power. In the east a number of small unstable states such as Poland emerged. Britain and France only gained a short term advantage from this and they were too divided by mutual suspicions to implement the Treaty in the post war years The key weakness in the treaty was that America who had played such an important point in negotiating the Treaty was prevented by the American senate that refused to ratify the treaty, from helping to execute and enforce the Treaty. Peter Styles ...read more.

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